The home video industry has evolved to the point that studios are no longer all that interested in putting out great special editions of catalog titles. Niche companies like Scream and Shout Factory, and the gold standard The Criterion Collection do great work, but for the most part if a studio puts out an older title it is likely to come with either the supplements of previous releases, or in some cases no supplements at all (as has been the case with some recent Warner Brothers/Paramount releases). Sony has at least done good work in double-dipping two Luc Besson films, Leon aka The Professional and The Fifth Element, and Michael Bay’s Bad Boys and Bad Boys II. The upside is that these films look and sound better than ever, the downside is that no additional supplemental content has been made for these films.
Mastered in 4K, the difference in picture and sound quality for all is impressive. These films have long been the sort of movies that are default demo-discs, things you put on if you want to show off your system, and these new transfers don’t disappoint. The films have been mastered in 4K, and the Besson films now have Dolby Atmos soundtracks, which are amazing. In direct comparison to previous releases, the difference in quality (even with previous Blu-ray releases) is evident from frame one, with Leon noticeably looking better and cleaner than ever. And while the Bay films don’t have the Atmos tracks, they are in 5.1 DTS Master Audio, and the transfers are immaculate. It’s also great to finally have Bay’s masterpiece Bad Boys II on Blu-ray, as this is the film’s first official appearance in 1080 on disc.
But as reissues, the era of studios putting out packed special editions to motivate people to buy the white album again is over. That may be why companies like Sony and Warner Brothers are letting more titles come out through the Criterion Collection, because they know they aren’t going to give those films the love and care that they should have. If you really like these films, these new transfers definitely offer a better transfer of these movies, though at this point it’s hard to know what the future of home video is, and if there won’t be a new format that’s even better, or if streaming will eventually dominate.
As such, it’s not worth really noting much about the movies. Leon is Luc Besson’s best film (in either cut) and his most personal as it follows an awkward manchild named Leon (Jean Reno) who happens to be one of the world’s most deadly assassins. He learns how to be human when he takes in Matilda (Natalie Portman) after her family is killed by corrupt cop Norman Stansfield (Gary Oldman). With brilliant action sequences, great performances, and a heart (albeit one that is very creepy as it’s a love story between a grown man and a prepubescent girl), it’s worth watching in both cuts as one is more streamlined, while the latter goes deeper, but also pushes some of the more uncomfortable elements of the narrative. It comes with all the supplements from the previous Blu-ray release. Those are “10 Year Retrospective: Cast and Crew Look Back” (25 min.) with commentary by Producer Patrice Ledoux, actors Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Maiwenn, Ellen Greene, Michael Badalucco, and Frank Senger, Casting Director Todd Thaler, Director of Photography Thierry Arbogast, Costume Designer Magali Guidasci, and Editor Sylvie Landra. There’s also actor spotlights “Jean Reno: The Road to Leon” (12 min.) and “Natalie Portman: Starting Young” (14 min.), a fact track and the film’s theatrical trailer. The only new thing is the trailer.
The Fifth Element is Besson’s big goofy space opera. Bruce Willis stars as an ex-military man who is unintentionally made the custodian of Leeloo (Milla Jovovich), who is man’s only hope of stopping the ultimate evil, a faceless blob of space evil that can consume plantes and space ships. Also after them is weapon designer Zorg (Oldman), who has partnered with the ultimate evil for unknown reasons. Big, colorful, and with great set pieces as well, Besson was obviously inspired by the comic books and science fictions films of the 1970’s and 80’s (with Mobeius the most obvious influence), and so he made the most colorful and garish space opera yet. The film doesn’t totally work, though it’s such a goofy piece that it’s also hard not to appreciate it, even if Besson isn’t a master of comedy.
It too comes with the previous supplements from the last Blu-ray and DVD special edition: “The Visual Element” (18 min.) talks to the designers of the movie (but, again, not Besson), and it’s followed by the sub-section “The Visual Element” that looks at the “Pyramid Test” (1 min.), “Cornelius’ Apartment Test” (1 min.), “Zorg’s Office Test” (1 min.), “Airport Tests” (2 min.), “Fhloston Lobby Test” (1 min.), “Fhloston Corridor Test” (1 min.), and “Fhloston Bedroom Test” (1 min.).
Next up is a look at the actors with “The Star Element: Bruce Willis” (4 min.), “The Star Element: Mila Jovovich” (13 min.), which is followed by “The Star Element: Mila Jovovich Extras” which offers four Screen Tests (12 min.), and then there’s “The Star Element: Chris Tucker” (4 min.)
“The Alien Element: Mondoshawans” (8 min.) looks at the design of the creatures, and it’s followed by sub-section “The Alien Element: Mondoshawans Extras” which holds three Screen Tests (2 min.), and two Battle Outtakes (1 min.). “The Alien Element: Mangalores (10 min.) looks at those creatures and offers the sub-section “The Alien Element: Mangalores Extras” which features a Head Test (1 min.) and Battle Outtake (1 min.). Then there’s “The Alien Element: Picasso” (4 min.), “The Alien Element: Strikers” (3 min.) and sub-section “The Alien Element: Strikers Extras” which offers four Striker Tests (1 min.). Next up is “The Fashion Element” (8 min.), and sub-section “The Fashion Element Extras” Korben Dallas Test (1 min.), and three Leeloo Tests (4 min). It’s followed by “The Diva” (16 min.) and sub-section “The Diva Extras” which offers a Make-Up Test (4:34), three Outtakes (4 min.). Finally there’s “The Digital Element” (10 min.) “Imagining The Fifth Element” (5 min.), “The Elements of Style” (5 min.) and a Fact Track.
Bad Boys was Michael Bay’s feature film debut and it shows a filmmaker whose inherent slickness and commercial sensibilities that were ready to conquer Hollywood. At the time the film felt like a throwback to buddy cop comedies from the eighties, as it partners Will Smith’s slick ladies man Mike Lowery with Martin Lawrence’s family man Marcus Burnett. When Julie Mott (Tea Leoni) witnesses an assassination, Burnett pretends to be Lowery in order to keep her safe because of a mix up (it’s silly but works in context). This was the film that launched Smith into superstardom as he showed a different side than the Fresh Prince (namely, shirtless), while also providing a solid action movie with slick set pieces. The retro elements are its weakest aspect, but Bay knew how to put a set piece together from the get go. The film comes with a commentary by Bay from previous releases, and it’s great as Bay is candid about how this was a low budget production Also included are “Putting the Boom & Bang in the Bad Boys” (24 min.), music videos “Five O, Five O (Here They Come)” by 69 Boyz, “Shy Guy” by Diana King and “So Many Ways” by Warren G, the film’s teaser trailer and theatrical trailer.
The first film is good, but Bad Boys II is Michael Bay’s masterpiece. Smith’s Mike Lowery and Lawrence’s Marcus Burnett return to deal with a Cuban drug lord Hector Juan Carlos ‘Johnny’ Tapia (Jordi Molla) who smuggles drugs through the use of a mortuary. Unfortunately Burnett’s sister Syd (Gabrielle Union) works for the government as is working deep undercover to bust Tapia. Working with an R rating, Bay is over the top in the most Michael Bay way possible, with swooping camera moves, and delirious car chases that can involve driving over corpses. It’s a demented twelve year old boy’s movie and it perfectly encapsulates what makes Bay both so entertaining and so frustrating as a filmmaker as it is pure indulgence. The film comes with seven deleted scenes (8 min.) “Production Diaries” (67 min.) which offers nineteen looks at different aspects of the production from casting to locations. Also included are six sequence breakdowns (46 min.) that cover the biggest action sequences in the movie, a look at the film’s stunts (10 min.) and visual effects (19 min.) a Jay-Z music video, a teaser trailer and two theatrical trailers.